Friday, 31 October 2008

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Pets In Europe - Chris Laurence

Previous presentation: TNR: The Template - Carolyn Menteith

Chris Laurence is Dogs Trust's Veterinary Director, and is the Chairman of Pets In Europe.

1:05: PIE started because of the now centralised nature of European legislation. Once legislation is drafted, it's usually too late to change it, so it's important to influence the structure of legislation before it's written. So, if more legislation is coming from Brussels, that's where we should be.

It can't just be one person talking for one organisation, so PIE invited every animal organisation in the EU to join the attempt to influence legislation. It is a multi-national organisation, but there are still 10 needed to create a fully pan-European organisation.

1:10: What is PIE pushing for?

EU laws that stress that it is wrong to be cruel to animals. But it has to be within EU competence, and the EU has to be convinced that these are European issues, not just national issues. The first aim is to make sure that animal welfare, thus far considered a national problem, is part of EU competence (including all animals, not just commercial animals).

1:15: There is already an EU competence in dealing with human health issues and there are laws that affect animal health (such as rabies directives). This can be built on to develop animal welfare and animal health strategies. The message for an animal health action plan is that "prevention is better than cure". A way to push the EU to consider this is to raise the subject of zoonotic diseases (transferable from animals to humans). There's little to be done about rabies, but leishmania is on the rise and can be the focus of lobbying.

At the moment, we don't have sandflies, which transmit leishmania, in the UK. But many more animals are being moved around Europe and it is only a matter of time. Climate change also appears to be a factor in rising levels of infection.

1:20: Thus, the Animal Health Advisory is meeting and discussing these issues. There is a scoping paper written for the committee to review encouraging an EU campaign of awareness about leishmania. Further research about the spread of the disease is needed to support this.

The message also needs to be taken to the public. There are leaflets which can be downloaded from the website, translated and handed out to get the message onto the streets.


Although presentations will follow on customer satisfaction, Internet marketing on a low budget and The Link, I will be unable to liveblog from the stage! However, I hope the coverage thus far has given you an idea about the kind of information and resources available at ICAWC. I hope we see you there next year!

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: TNR: The Template - Carolyn Menteith

Previous presentation: The Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare - Peter Davies

Carolyn is a very experienced dog trainer, behaviourist and broadcaster. On behalf of Dogs Trust and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, she is launching the TNR Template.

12:45: This template is an adaptable guide to setting up a Trap Neuter Return programme anywhere. It takes them through the whole process from deciding if there is a problem and what the scale of it is to celebrating successes.

The template came out of work done by Dogs Trust, Battersea and, originally, North Shore Animal League in Oradea, Romania. You can read more about this International project online. SOS Dogs Oradea has proved so successful that as of January 2008 both major sponsors were able to pull out of the project, allowing the staff in Oradea and Robert Smith, the man who inspired the project, to completely take over and continue the work.

12:50: In the spirit of events like ICAWC, the plan was always to pass on all the advice and knowledge gained. There's no point in re-inventing the wheel, and making the same mistakes. Carolyn was commissioned to write the template, and establish the language, content and delivery of it.

It's not easy - but the information can be delivered in a straightforward and freely available fashion. This resource is completely and utterly free.

You can download the template online, and visit the Facebook page. It is designed to be used as a web resource, as it's fully interactive, but can also be printed. It's colour-coded, and starts from "can I do it, should I do it?".

12:55: Carolyn is taking the delegates through each section's contents.

1:00: This template can only help people be a success if they know about it and where they can find it. Please put the links above on your website, social networking pages or any other resource that you have. If you think that someone can benefit from it, please tell them.


Next presentation: Pets In Europe - Chris Laurence

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: The Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare - Peter Davies

Previous presentation: Vision: the What, the Why and the How - Andy Ashcroft

As a late replacement for Mike Radford, Maj. Gen. Peter Davies has stepped in to speak on a subject of his choice, the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare. He is the Director General of the WSPA of which Dogs Trust is a part.

12:25: Peter covers the history of the UN declaration, the seeds of which began while he was Director General of the RSPCA. There had already been one failed attempt to reach consensus in Paris, so he decided to resurrect it, and at first it was very complicated.

Once agreed, however, implementation is all about getting governments to become part of it. To begin with, the government of the Philipines offered to host a gathering in Manila. Unfortunately, a late, unapproved edit to the text referring to trade caused the meeting to stall. Through the night, the agreement was rewritten to be presented again to delegates the following day. The resultant document focussed on the Amsterdam Protocal - the idea that animals are sentient, feel pain and can suffer.

12:30: It was not straightforward. Small compromises on wording did have to be made, alternative wording for some paragraphs was provided - no resolution can be totally perfect. But now, on the strength of that, a formal drafting will be made based on the model that has been created.

Among others, full government support or ministerial support has been obtained for this from:
  • Sweden
  • New Zealand
  • Cambodia
  • Fiji
  • The Seychelles
  • UK
  • Croatia
  • Bahrain
  • Costa Rica
  • Columbia
An impressive list of worldwide veterinary associations have also signed up to UDAW.

12:35: Where do other organisations come in?

Currently, 1.6 million signatures appear on petitions. More can be added! The target is 10 million, which would be the world's largest petition.

You can sign the petition online. I've just done it myself!


Next presentation: TNR: The Template - Carolyn Menteith

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Vision: the What, the Why and the How - Andy Ashcroft

Previous presentation: Making the Best for Feral Cats - Becky Robinson

Andy, a business consultant and ex-Civil Servant, is now part of Dogs Trust's team. He's clearly sport mad as we seem to be talking about football, tennis and the Olympic Games! This is because the one thing every sporting great has in common is knowing what they want to achieve and why. He continues on from Adrian's thoughts about setting a vision and creating a business plan.

12:00: Why is Tiger Woods so successful? Because he focussed just on golf from a very early age. Sport psychologists focus on the what, the why and the how. Charities must do the same.

Is it just about winning a game? Or about winning the whole tournament?

12:10: Andy uses a case study of community that wanted to reduce the problem of prostitution in the area. They did it by coming to the pub which sold women and staring at prostitutes and clients until they were embarrassed. Within three years, the problem was solved, they moved to creating more opportunities to women and empowering them. Eventually the same pub became the headquarters of a positive movement.

12:15: Another case study:

What? An interventionist AW organisation for Poland
Why? To protect animals
How? Took inspiration from the RSPCA to create unifomed guard, volunteers etc.
Results? Within two years, 48 uniformed volunteers, 300 in total. Next year, RSPCA will train further volunteers and the Polish Prime Minister and Dogs Trust have offered some financial support.


Next presentation: The Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare - Peter Davies

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Making the Best for Feral Cats - Becky Robinson

Previous presentation: Vision / Mission / Strategy - Adrian Burder

Becky is President and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.

10:35: Becky gives an overview of Alley Cat Allies, the programmes it carries out and Feral Cat Day. She points out recent research that found evidence of a mummified cat buried metres from mummified human remains almost twice as long ago as we might expect. So for longer than any of us have realised, cats and humans have had a very special relationship.

10:45: Feral cats exist everywhere, in every climate and with the most varied diet of any species of cat. It is natural for cats to live outside, and only 62 years ago, with the invention of cat litter, did domestic cats start to live indoors with humans instead of around humans. Strays and kittens who have not been handled by humans early on can become unsocialised.

10:50: Cats hunt alone, but live communally in colonies. They are content and are not waiting to be socialised; they might adapt or make the choice to live with us, but many cats prefer to live outside. Feral cats might have kittens that can be socialised to humans and there are degrees of how feral a cat is.

Feral cats are not impossible to socialise, but it's difficult. Trap, neuter, tame is not recommended by Alley Cat Allies, but feral cats can become very attached to their carers. Many shelters handed feral cats by well-meaning helpers put down the animal within hours; is it better and more humane to leave the cat outside or hand it in to be put down?

10:55: Looking at statistics concerning dogs, killing ferals and strays is not productive. It does not solve the problem and it is not based on fact, but fear. Even rabies is a vaccine preventable disease. It's the reproductive process that increases the problem. Removing feral cats from an area also just invites others to move in. A 'vacuum effect' is created. We do not have the choice to elimintate cats, we have a choice between unvaccinated, breeding cats or vaccinated, neutered cats.

11:00: Many cultures teach us to treat animals responsibles. Alley Cat Allies has conducted research in the US that shows evidence of great sympathy for ferals, especially following the advice of Bob Barker, who closed his programmes with "spay and neuter your pets". A mating pair of cats can produce maybe 50,000 cats in five years. Viruses such as FIV and feline leukaemia are discovered in less than 4% of studied colonies, but neutering reduces these numbers further by preventing the spread to offspring.

Becky says "there are million cats and sanctuaries are not the answer. Removing cats is not the answer... socialising the cats is impractical, difficult, time-consuming and not humane. The number one way to improve the lives of cats is introducing... Trap, Neuter, Return."

The stages that are followed are feeding, providing vet care and neutering, and also providing education for the local community. Not only does neutering improve health and reduce the population, it also reduces behaviour that can attract cruelty and fear, such as fighting, caterwauling etc.

With planned, targetting trapping, hundreds of cats can be identified, trapped, treated and returned within a short space of time. Two months of planning might mean a whole area or colony targetted and treated within a week.

It's helpful to trap as early in life as possible, and to make the most of one holding period for neutering, vaccination, ear tipping and any other treatment. The vast majority are perfectly healthy, and only need to be held for one night in most cases.

11:10: With education, ACA has seen gated and local communities help support trap, neuter, return in their area, and in very successful areas the remaining helpers outnumber the cats and fight to have the chance to feed them! As a result, ACA has expanded its mission. They know that the most successful programmes come from institutional change and are paid for and supported by municipalities and are free for caregivers and volunteers to access. The new mission has to tackle the number one documented threat to cats in the US: institutional euthanasia. In the US, 73% of rescued cats die in shelters (according to ACA numbers) and all feral cats are put down by many shelters as a matter of course. ACA's new course of action is to stop this happening.

Becky concludes with a video of a high volume spay-neuter clinic.


Next presentation: Vision: the What, the Why and the How - Andy Ashcroft

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Vision / Mission / Strategy - Adrian Burder

Previous presentation: Practical tips for Avoiding Stress in Companion Animal Handling - Caroline Bower

Adrian is Dogs Trust's Marketing Director (and my boss!).

Three things to remember:
  • You have to have a vision
  • You have to stretch it to the limit
  • You can't be afraid of failure!
Your vision has to be challenging and inspiring to make it worth the while. Adrian quotes JFK's ambitions on achieving a moon landing within the decade as one of the most inspiring statements ever made.

Why do something difficult? Because it's difficult, and because people think it's impossible.

10:30: The next stage is selling that vision. It doesn't matter how small or poor an organisation is to start with, if that vision is successfully sold then the ability to expand and do more work and achieve your goals will come. Your mission statement mustn't be gathering dust in a folder somewhere, it's got to be part of everything you do.

People will mock difficult visions - even your own staff! That doesn't matter. "It's not the critic who counts... the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..." (Theodore Roosevelt: read the rest of the quote here).

10:35: Banish negative thoughts - don't die not knowing! Even if you fail to achieve everything you wanted, you can know you tried your hardest. And be part of a wider vision.


Next presentation: Making the Best for Feral Cats - Becky Robinson

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Practical tips for Avoiding Stress in Companion Animal Handling - Caroline Bower

Previous presentation: Rewarding our Companions: Honours Awards - Clarissa Baldwin

Caroline is not only a veterinarian, but also a behaviourist, so is very well placed to give practical tips for avoiding and reducing stress when handling animals. She is drawing on her experiences at The Veterinary Hospital in Plymouth, Devon.

9:25: Caroline's early focus was on prevention. She asks who we want to help?.
  • The patients
  • The owners
  • Animal handlers
  • The practice / shelter's reputation
9:30: Speaking from the point of view of someone who works within a veterinary practice, there are certain main aims:
  • Good welfare
  • Minimising stress
  • Being safe using minimal restraint
  • Creating the conditions for the best history and examination
  • Avoiding tension, arousal, pain and fear
What else? Clearly excellent clinical care, excellent client care, successful outcome, client satisfaction, avoidance of iatrogenic (medical care-related) behaviour problems. In a shelter it might be kennel stress, etc.

9:35: What are the stimuli of stress?
  • Phone
  • Reception
  • Other clients and (nervous) pets
  • Animal noises
  • Waiting room design
  • Space available
  • First time client
  • Anxiety about the illness
  • Cost of treatment
  • Waiting time
9:40: The person on the front desk / answering the phone is of paramount importance. They can put people at their ease through clear communication, a smile and helpful attitude and creating a calm, welcoming atmosphere. It does make a huge difference, and is key to waiting room management.

She / he can relieve overcrowding by giving suggestions (why not walk the dog? Why not wait in the car with your cat?), making sure that, for example, a nervous rabbit isn't sitting next to a noisy dog and communicating on delays and systems quickly and clearly. They can also politely suggest owners of noisy animals walk outside, etc, and that owners of prey and predator species do not sit together!

9:45: Simple things can help reduce stress for all concerned. Making sure every animal that comes in to the waiting area is appropriately restrained (safely in a cat carrier, on a leash, etc) is one way, and having a quiet corridor with a chair somewhere away from the waiting area for animals that might be better in a more isolated area can really improve a tense situation.

If possible, have separate dog and cat sitting areas; they don't have to be physically separated by much more than signs and tables, but it helps people to organise themselves. Stressed dogs head downwards, stressed cats upwards. Raising cats off the ground so that they feel safer - putting them on a lap, chair or shelf while in the basket - helps. Cats generally are only put in baskets during stressful times, so at home it helps to encourage the cat to regard the basket as safe. Take the door off, make it comfy and warm, give treats and feed in it and let them understand it's not entirely negative. Cats can be desensitised to it.

Pheromone sprays applied before the cat gets in can also relax them (Feliway) and using a familiar towel / blanket can increase the comfort level, as can securing the basket safely in the car and avoiding bumping during transport. Then putting a towel over the basket and sitting in the quietest area possible is calming.

9:50: For very nervous cats, surgeries can try cat only surgery times and cat only wards (it will only smell of cats), etc. The same can be done for birds and small furries.

9:55: Avoiding pain is crucial, not only because of the welfare considerations, which are many, but because a pleasant - or at least, minimally painful - experience at the vets can prevent stress and behaviour issues on the next visit. Positive associations - giving treats, etc - and working slowly and carefully also make the process easier and provide good groundwork for future visits.

Examination rooms can also be made friendlier - providing a seat and helping clients to feel the staff are approachable means better pet histories and communication.

10:00: Plan ahead. Double appointments can be given to new puppies, kittens and rabbits because there's so much information to impart / receive and so much that can be done to prevent future problems during primary socialisation phases, especially with dogs. Extra time needs to be allowed with avian or exotic pets, too, or for giving second opinions for someone who is usually a client at another practice. Export consultations are difficult and sensitive, so need appropriate time to cover all the information.

Euthanasia is obviously very traumatic for the client, so extra time for saying goodbye before and after the procedure is very imporant.

10:05: Appropriate use of sedation and pre-emptive pain relief is key in creating a supportive atmosphere for the animal. Aftercare for anaesthetised animals is vital, as the majority of deaths that do happen related to surgery happen after the animal has come round. Often this can be the least vigilant time, but should be the most vigilant until the animal is actually up and walking around again.

Caroline goes on to give some specific species tips. For example, if you do need to muzzle a dog, it's better if the owner does this at home so there is not an immediate association between the vets and the muzzle.

10:10: Early socialisation can be paramount in preventing stress, behaviour problems and other issues later on. This is particularly key with the first few weeks of a puppy's life. When a new puppy is brought in, their first experience should be positive. Caroline's practice gives them treats on the table first, while some puppy advice is discussed, before any examination or jabs are given. The injection can be given while they're scoffing the treats! Some fail to even notice the needle if they're adequately distracted before they've had time to develop a fearful response.


Next presentation: Vision / Mission / Strategy - Adrian Burder

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Rewarding our Companions: Honours Awards - Clarissa Baldwin

In this ten-minute continuation on yesterday's ideas about raising the status of companion animals, Clarissa is raising the idea of having an award ceremony.

Not only do awards raise the status of dogs and celebrate them, they're a great media hook and a positive way of marketing the work you do. You can find the dog stories:
  • On the web
  • On social networks
  • Through letters to the editor
  • At schools
  • From owners of assistance dogs
Where do you hold an award ceremony? Well, you want it to be free!

Will a multinational lend you their meeting area?
Would the Mayor let you use the Town Hall?
Would a local TV or film studio let you use the site?

You want to get the media involved, and if you can use celebrities to help you publicise it, so much the better. Then decide your categories, for example, Hero Dog, Quality of Life, Triumph over Adversity, etc. These are all categories Dogs Trust has used at the Dogs Trust Honours.

Clarissa concludes with a very moving video telling the stories of dogs who have won awards at the Honours.


Next presentation: Practical tips for Avoiding Stress in Companion Animal Handling - Caroline Bower

ICAWC 2008: Day 3 - The Presentations

Still with us? Just joined us? Either way, welcome! Today I'll be furiously liveblogging presentations on rewarding companions, practical tips for avoiding stress in companion animal handling, vision, feral cats, TNR and Pets In Europe. Then I'll suddenly go very silent (and possibly a little green) because I'll be the one on stage! I have a feeling my colleagues will be exacting revenge for my paparazzi photography and manic tapping while I'm up there...

We'll kick off shortly with Clarissa making her opening remarks and speaking about rewarding our companions with the Honours Awards.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: International Training Opportunities

Previous presentation: Tellington Touch - Sarah Fisher

David Newall, the former Deputy Director General of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, now consults for Dogs Trust on international development. He is offering the chance for ICAWC delegates to gain training and experience through Dogs Trust.

4:35: "Welfare evolves, and we learn as well." The training can be a two way process. The areas covered include shelter management, veterinary matters, maketing, fundraising and media, rehoming, customer care, dog handling, shelter construction, first aid and education.

4:40: Brigitta, a previous attendee at a training session from Lithuania, speaks of her experiences. She talks of how they raised some money to get started, but then stalled on where to start - should it be neutering? Education? Shelters? The training gave her a place to start with helping dogs in Lithuania. She is joined in her recommendation by a fellow attendee (whose name, unfortunately, was lost in the clamour of applause for Brigitta!).

Delegates are due to arrive from all over the world, including India and Pakistan, for another session at Dogs Trust West London in a matter of weeks. The training itself is fully covered by Dogs Trust in terms of costs - if you can get yourselves to the UK, Dogs Trust will take care of the rest.

4:45: Educators are being educated! Teachers and animal welfare professionals are given the tools to teach children that "helping animals is everyone's responsibility". We always do need volunteers who can provide locations for future courses, and welcome contact from anyone who can help.

And now... some ice to dip my hands in! The delegates, though, will be treated to a 'speakeasy', which is a chance to have a chat with any of today's speakers and ask all those pressing questions.


End of the day! Come back tomorrow for more.

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Tellington Touch - Sarah Fisher

Previous presentation: Worldwide Veterinary Service - Luke Gamble

Since we covered quite a lot of Sarah's T Touch approach at her brilliant workshop yesterday, I'm going to give my writing fingers a rest and employ my trigger finger... shooting photos! I hope to get a few pictures up here shortly and encourage you to meet Sarah at any opportunity. Not only is she an engaging speaker (and a lovely woman), her techniques are best experienced rather than read about.

Right, index finger at the ready:

Helping a horse with severe agitation problems to accept stables and horse boxes with lasting results.

Sarah is showing a series of videos on how the process works, including work on a cat who couldn't stand to be touched. She's also shown us a couple of slides which show coat patterns that might indicate muscle tension or even injury, even when there don't appear to be any other signs of it.

Showing the different types of touch (llama = back of hand, chimp = fingers curved etc)
. Here showing light zig zags.

Another video, another wonderful, moving success story. This time a very overexcited pup that was snapping and jerking until his ears and head were very gently stroked using the T Touch techniques. More movement and body work and positive reinforcement follows for lasting results.

Animals that can't be touched at first can be approached with a feather, paint brush, fake hand or stroking stick. These are cheap, effective resources - and they work.


Next presentation: International Training Opportunities - David Newall

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Worldwide Veterinary Service - Luke Gamble

Previous presentation: Changing Behaviour Patterns - Steve Goward

Luke, who reminds me very much of Steve Irwin with his safari gear and unflappable enthusiasm, is the young pioneer behind WVS. WVS provides free veterinary resources to non-profit organisations and animal charities worldwide and has helped 161 charities in 57 countries.

2:50: Luke fills us in on some of the statistics on animals that have been helped. This year saw the launch of the disaster reponse team. Luke's response to people who ask why he doesn't help people is that they are - by caring for animals which carry zoonotic diseases, etc, WVS improves public health.

It's "animal welfare for human welfare". Luke is showing a DVD of a trip to Kenya made this year and will talk about it afterwards. The scenery looks absolutely stunning, and of course the variety of animals to be seen is amazing. But the beautiful, peaceful opening gives way to a more alarming perspective, where people are seen suffering as violence tore the country apart and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee to the sanctuary of camps for displaced people. THis is the point when WVS sent in the new emergency disaster response team. They vaccinated, wormed and treated as many animals as possible in 10 days, crucial farm animals the community would be relying on to help them survive. Dogs, cattle, elephants, donkeys - 8,773 animals were treated in 12 camps over 10 days.

3:00: Luke was grateful for the assistance of the Kenyan governments, whose support was very instrumental in the success of the trip.

However, there were problems with the trip. One dog, which was fitting, was dead by the time the vets were able to examine him. One person trying to get their dog to the site had dragged it alongside a bike, sadly accidentally choking the animal. Why did it happen? These are the things to address to make sure it doesn't happen again.
  • The programme was running slightly late
  • There was poor organisation on the ground, chaos, and poor communication to the locals (for a start, they thought the vaccination had killed the dog)
  • An unclear message causes all sorts of problems
So how can you run a field project better?

3:10: Here are the principles:
  • Know your team
  • Assign roles according to skills
  • Have your permissions - it's imperative, because it makes all the difference, especially for long-term projects
  • Compromise - if you're not allowed to neuter at first, vaccinate instead
  • Have a set plan
  • Make sure the team knows the individual jobs they must do, and understands adopted protocols and policies
  • Try not to get sidetracked
  • Build community support - always plan for a follow up trip
3:15: Luke is also covering Vet Adventure, which is designed to encourage younger vets to get involved. It is now potentially expanding into a social enterprise to appeal to non-vets to generate money and support for charities. It combines work and play, putting together a holiday package with paid work that helps animals and, through animals, people.

Luke's team (all in khakis!) have come with him to offer their expertise, help and information to ICAWC delegates. Vet teams, neutering protocols, medicines, equipment, books, vet assistance and more can be made available to those in need.


Next presentation: Tellington Touch - Sarah Fisher

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Changing Behaviour Patterns - Steve Goward

Previous presentation: Human-Animal Interaction: PhD Research Findings - Anne-Marie Wordley

Steve Goward is a training and behaviour advisor at Dogs Trust Roden. He'll be giving an overview of the methods used at the centre and a few case studies.

2:25: Immediately, a reminder of Dogs Trusts positive reinforcement strategies. Initially, fear-eliciting stimuli are removed, and there's a cognitive approach to solving behaviour issues including observing maintenance behaviours.

Eating, drinking, sleeping, urination, defecation, social interaction, body care and safety are assessed using a score sheet grading from 1 - 10, where 1 is very poor and 10 is excellent. It's important to choose then the right method (BMP - Behaviour Modification Programme) which allows the dog to achieve more than he fails.

Then exposure can gradually be built up to fear stimuli.

2:30: There's a three-stage approach, starting in the comfort zone, then the stretch zone. The last, to be avoided, is the great unknown.

Steve is presenting a case study of Bill, who was rehomed and returned to kennels three times in six months, and exhibited nervous aggression, obsessive ball play, noise sensitivity due to bad sleeping patterns, food aggression towards people and dogs and severe stereotypical behaviours. We are being shown a video of his behaviour, where Bill stands licking a wall obsessively and hiding in his kennel. "It's not easy to stand there with a video camera and watch this; it's distressing." Steve describes the injuries and lacerations to his tongue. "No wonder he was food aggressive; it probably hurt him to eat and digest."

2:35: Bill got a change of environment to improve safety and sleep - he went to the training block, out of the kennels. He got a new feeding regime, with a change of context, more feeds, easy access and no pressure. He was immersed in a relaxation programme to teach focus and calm, and played games which increased release of serotonin from achieving new tasks. The difficulty is gently increased so there's a high chance of positive achievement.

Interaction with other dogs was also increased to help Bill's feeling of security. We are watching another video of one of the sessions, with Bill responding calmly to simple clicker training, and gradually being introduced to more movement around him whilst still remaining calm and being rewarded from it.

2:40: Food agression was resolved within the first week. Within two weeks, stereotypical behaviours were gone. After three weeks, obsessive ball playing had stopped, and social interactions with other dogs, which he had avoided just days before, were massively improved.

Steve concludes with some videos of Bill's progress, where he sleeps in front of people (a first for this dog in the centre!) and plays with another dog. Bill is now in a home, and although he has a little nervousness with new people, is like a brand new dog.

2:40: Onto another case study! Grandpa Joe was a four-year-old stray who bit two members of staff in the first week. He showed signs of depression and lived in kennels for some time. He would take on any other dog, from Terriers to Great Danes, which is typical for dogs with low serotonin. Joe received a similar programme to Bill, as well as target training, which encouraged him to feel confident moving towards objects with enthusiasm and confidence - "getting his tail wagging". We see a video of this, which is frankly adorable!

Joe is no longer showing symptoms of depression and even lived with another dog at the centre. He is no longer a picky eater, plays with toys and has become intensely affectionate around people he's familiar with. He's now in a loving home at long last.

2:45: David the ex-racing Greyhound who had systematic exposure to impoverishment and poor handling. He was not aggressive, but very depressed, hyper-vigilant (no sleeping in public) and very, very frightened.

A huge change of context was needed and delivered. He had a new highly palatable diet, an appropriate living companion in the form of a calm, friendly Lab and a comfy choice of bedding. A must for a Greyhound! He quickly showed that he was able to play and relax. He was rehomed with another Greyhound where he continues to show much calmer and happier behaviours.

You can email with any questions (or come and meet him next year!).


Next presentation: Worldwide Veterinary Service - Luke Gamble

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Human-Animal Interaction: PhD Research Findings - Anne-Marie Wordley

Previous presentation: Animals as Therapy in Human Health - Alexandra More

It's almost time for everyone to shuffle back in after a yummy lunch and more than a bit of informal networking. They're in for a treat when they return, hearing from Anne-Marie Wordley, our most far-flung delegate, who usually makes her home in Adelaide, South Australia! With degrees in Journalism and Psychology, Anne-Marie has channelled her love of animals into a PhD research project investigating the relationships we have with companion animals and conduction a trial of an Animal Assisted Therapy programme for people with Dementia. She's presenting some of her findings here.

2:10: Anne-Marie begins with thanks to people who have assisted with her research, including Alzheimer's Australia. She will outline her method, preliminary findings, and future direction.

Anne-Marie's study has built on previous research by adding longer term observations and a control group where the dog was taken out of the equation and the differences compared.

2:15: Exploratory interviews of nursing home residents covered the benefits of pets and the feelings surrounding giving them up when going into care. The themes were recurrent: people felt a greater sense of company, love and responsibility around their pets.

Weeks 1-4 covered the baseline, then weeks 5-10 were intervention - introducing the dogs - and finally weeks 11-16 were follow up, taking the dogs away and comparing results. The sessions comprised of twice-weekly one hour group meetings. Some were also room visits for residents with limited mobility. The dogs were assessed for temperament and suitability, and the residents were able to pat and interact with the dog as the handler walked them around. There were also chair-side visits, where dogs jumped up on chairs to be within the reach of residents who could not bend to stroke them.

The Revised Memory and Behaviour Problems Checklist contained a list of observations that had to be made. The nursing home staff completed the chacklists at the end of each week and each session.

2:20: Results showed that not only were social interactions improved and memory loss and disruption reduced when the dogs were there, but that quite a lot of the progress was maintained after the dogs were removed from the situation (although they slightly increased, it was not at all back to baseline levels). In the control group there was either little difference or deterioration.

The findings are preliminary and are the results of a limited study conducted with a small sample in one nursing home. There are hopes to expand the studies and the aims are that no healthy companion animal should be destroyed for want of a home. Anne-Marie has already been to visit one organisation which rehomes retired Greyhounds to nursing homes as therapy animals.


Next presentation: Changing Behaviour Patterns - Steve Goward

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Animals as Therapy in Human Health - Alexandra More

Previous presentation: Education - Anneleise Smillie

Alexandra More is based at The State Hospital, the only high security hospital for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Among the 170 patients, the average stay is 7 years, varying from a few weeks to 30+ years.

12:15: Among the animals at the hospital are:

20 hens
40 ducks
7 geese
1 cat
2 kune kune pigs (Thelma and Louise!)

and many more birds, fish, companion and farm animals. Gorgeous Splash the cat, who is blind, is very popular and very much a part of life there.

12:25: Criteria for accepting a therapy animal are not as cut and dried as you might think. Working with more challenging animals can be of enormous benefit in terms of engendering a sense of achievement in patients, and demonstrating that behaviour can be changed.

The sessions provide opportunities for group and 1-1 experiences with animals, and for social interaction and assessment. Some patients are able to gain qualifications too.

Activities include:
  • Walks with dogs
  • Cleaning sheds / run / cages
  • Feeding birds and animals
  • Replenishing water containers
  • Grooming
  • Daily health checks
  • Feed ordering
  • Maintenance
  • Playing with animals
The transferable, practical skills are incredibly varied.

12:30: What other benefits for the patient?
  • Awareness of their environment is increased
  • Desire to learn about animals needs, because of the enthusiasm of a response from a living being
  • Ability to discuss and demonstrate emotions that might not be shown to humans
  • Ability to deal with aggressive thoughts and feelings
  • Ability to empathise
  • Social interaction
  • Problem solving
  • Improvement in physical health
Alexandra presents some anecdotal evidence and case studies to support the findings.

All the speakers will be available for group 'speakeasy' sessions at the end of each day so that anyone with questions can approach and have an informal chat away from the microphones - a relief for some of our more nervous speakers (like me!) I think, and a great opportunity for delegates to converse at more length than a normal Q&A allows.

12:45: And now... lunch! Back at 2pm (GMT +1) for more. You'll be here, right?


Next presentation: Human-Animal Interaction: PhD Research Findings - Anne-Marie Wordley

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Education - Anneleise Smillie

Previous presentation: Raising the Status of Companion Animals (The Canine Charter) - Clarissa Baldwin

Anneleise, from the Animals Asia Foundation, has been responsible for launching and developing programmes that have seen over 6,000 children graduating as 'pet cadets', promising to love and protect animals for life. These are children who had never touched animals and were deathly afraid, so this programme is making an extraordinary difference to the lives of children in Hong Kong. She will be presenting some of the lessons learned, and giving top tips and ideas for people to take away. When they started out this was a small, inexperienced team with no budget - there are no excuses for not getting on and doing it, even if there are mistakes along the way!

11:45: What is humane education? Why get involved? Who should it be aimed at?

Exhibitions to the general public, presentations to lawmakers, teach the teacher workshops, awareness leaflets and hands on activities with children are just a few ways. Anneleise is focussing on children as the most rewarding and best way to approach educating the public.

Identifying the issues is important - the real problems in the area and the perceived problems can be divergent, but both are important in establishing a strategy.

11:50: As pet ownership increases, so do problems surrounding responsible treatment and ownership of animals. Tragedy strikes when people perceive a problem with barking or anti-social ownership. How can we provide a lasting solution to these problems?

AAF focussed limited resources on children, and tailored the message to them. The children were scared - influenced by parents and the growing fears of disease - and the message needs to be clearly established.

A few basic principles were thought of, such as "dogs need clean water and good food", "dogs need three walks a day", "dogs need a warm place to sleep". In the end it was realised that these messages were secondary, so it was all resolved down to:
  • Animals have feelings just like us
  • Animals need love!
Once the message is clear, how are you going to deliver it?

AAF decided the dogs needed to deliver the messages themselves, and that meant convincing the authorities that dogs should be allowed into schools. There were widespread concerns about English language standards dropping, so the message about companion animals was woven into an English language programme.

11:55: Resources, manpower, transportation and expenses must be considered. To begin with, AAF visited just one school so as to achieve within their means. Materials were simple - basic English worksheets that gave volunteers and children alike structure. Volunteers were encouraged to keep observations and feedback. That way it became clear that certain elements of vocabulary (for example, 'fur' or 'paws') were missing, and that needed to be worked on first. Later, more resources such as flash cards were developed, or Guess Who games that describe the tasks related to working dogs which keep children engaged and active.

12:00: Parents also begin to get involved in the process, and group games such as Memory can help everyone work together and get across the main objectives to parental observers. Rewards are important at graduation, too.

What did the children want? Pet cadet wristbands
What did the parents want? Laminated certificates
What did the teachers want? Small ceremonies to mark graduation

You must also know where to find your volunteers. As the majority of volunteers AAF had were ex-pat women who were not working, they targetted their volunteer information at gyms, embassy coffee mornings, relocation companies and anywhere else these women could regularly be found. If you know what you're looking for you can efficiently target your resources and find the people you need. You must communicate, ask for feedback, keep them updated, reward the contribution and provide support and training to help these generous people become advocates and understand how valued a part of the programme they are.

12:05: Approach schools formally - you need to show your professionalism and competence, and address the goals and aims at that particular school and how you can help teachers meet them. Even if schools are not able or willing to include your programme in the daily activities, there might be after school clubs, fairs or other occasions that you can contribute to.

Anneleise's Top Ten Tips:

1. Never Give Up! Don't take no for an answer; just one individual is enough to get started.
2. Start Small
3. Develop Your Case For Support
4. Put Safety First
5. Build Firm Foundations

...well, you didn't think I'd give away all ten, did you?! Actually, you'll find all the presentations online at the main ICAWC website shortly, and you'll be able to find out more there.

Anneleise ends with an extract from the Professor Paws Pet Cadet Song, which has been a great (and wonderfully silly) hit with the kids in the programme. There are barking and mieowing background noises - brilliant!

And, of course, don't forget Dogs Trust education and school visits if you're in the UK and Ireland - you can contact us for more information.


Next presentation: Animals as Therapy in Human Health - Alexandra More

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Raising the Status of Companion Animals (The Canine Charter) - Clarissa Baldwin

Previous presentation: Animal Welfare: The Business of Saving Lives - Mike Arms

After a coffee break and some time to take in the inspiring words heard this morning, we'll be back with Clarissa's short cameo presentation about the value that can be placed on our wonderful pets.

11:30: And we're back! Every other nervous speaker is glad they don't have to follow Mike's wonderfully inspirational speech, but Clarissa has stepped bravely into the role, and is being introduced by Adrian Burder, our Marketing Director (remember? He asked you to pick a visionary).

11:35: Clarissa begins by quoting from Dean Koontz's The Darkest Evening of the Year on the status of dogs, and what it means to be a dog lover. She's also recapping last week's re-launch of the the Canine Charter for Human Health. How can those points about the emotional and physical health benefits of dog ownership be used to get Mayors and municipalities understanding the value of animals and the importance of saving their lives?

Clarissa will be back with another short presentation tomorrow.


Next presentation: Education - Anneleise Smillie

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Animal Welfare: The Business of Saving Lives - Mike Arms

Previous presentation: Population Dynamics: Problem Solving by Adding a bit of Science - Ray Butcher

Mike Arms introduces us to the idea of change. He "saves lives for a living". He believes what we have been doing for the last 100 years is now broken, and has to change. It's not enough to love animals; "they need our lives, our brilliance", he says, not our hearts.

10:10: Just introducing himself and his history (training as an accountant, moving from Kentucky to New York), it's obvious how charismatic a speaker Mike is. His dedication is evident in every sentence.

Mike tells of his early experiences - often tragic and harrowing - in animal welfare, and the horror of being beaten and stabbed trying to save a dying animal, who returned that effort to him by comforting him as he lay injured. That experience informed his life from then on, which has been devoted to saving lives.

10:15: We talk about money, shelters, needs in animal welfare. "We're in the business of saving lives, but we don't run it like a business". Mikes talks of his experiences in the US, Canada and New Zealand - the places he has been working recently. Only 5% of Americans will step into a shelter, because "we don't market our products!".

10:20: If we do not market what we do, we are literally loving animals to death. When marketing a 9-year-old Rottweiler who had six puppies, the headline said "63-year-old gives birth to sextuplets!". The media fell over themselves to help get these dogs rehomed, because of the inventive marketing. Shelters frequently close at weekends, but pet shops and puppy mills don't. We need to recognise that people treat obtaining an animal as shopping - retail is open at weekends, so should we be.

"We can't be afraid of the media - we have to work with the media!"

10:25: It's all about working together to share best practices. "Wishes and dreams don't come true. Business ethics do... I work for a living and the living that I do is saving lives."

Mike is talking with great pride about working animals such as those who struggled tirelessly at Ground Zero on September 11th, including one guide dog who kept her nose at her owners knee down eighty-four flights of stairs. "They give us all they have... when will we give that back?".

10:30: It's easier to win the battle against animal cruelty and destruction when you realise that you have to use your mind, not your heart. There's nothing to prove when it comes to our hearts. "There is no other industry in the world that's tougher than ours. Show me one other business that is as physical and emotional as the work that we do." For many workers, their love of animals brings them into the industry, but then they are forced to destroy that which they love. For no-kill to be effective, we have to market the product and ensure that the animals are successfully rehomed so more can be cared for. Mike tells of how he even doesn't have enough animals to meet demand thanks to good marketing and local strategies (leash laws, etc) that have reduced population.

When you go in the Yellow Pages, people only look for you under Animal Shelters when they want to relinquish an animal. To get an animal, they look under Pet Shops - that's where shelters need to be.

10:35: Even the way animals are presented can help increase adoptions hugely. If you place two cats in a kennel and name them carefully, visitors cannot resist adopting both Peanut Butter and Jelly, because adopting just one leaves the other looking so alone. Putting the puppies and kittens at the front can make other dogs and cats be overlooked, so put them at the back (just as supermarkets put milk at the back to drag you through the store). [Ed's note: Only those who have been invited can see the puppies in Dogs Trust's Harefield centre for the precise reason that other dogs can get overlooked, and puppies often need more experienced owners]

10:40: We have to change fallacies. We can't refuse to rehome black cats on Hallowe'en (unless the potential owner "parks their broom in the parking lot"). We have to think logically - naming a dog "Killer" might seem funny, but mum and dad aren't going to take that animal home.

The best way to take a bite out of the puppy mills, is to reduce their sales. People can think that buying the pups is the best way to 'rescue' them, but that just increases the suffering. We need to be more appealling than buying from a puppy mill, because when it's no longer profitable to exploit the breeding of dogs and cats in this way, those terrible places close down.

10:45: Where is the breed book that says "shelter dog" or "shelter cat"? They're not low-class animals, they're just cats and dogs. When we reduce our adoption fees, we're making our animals sound like 'bargain basement' options. All the animals that go through our shelters are quality - and we don't need to explain where the money goes. When we say that the medical procedures have this and that value, we are devaluing the animal. Variable values can also be used. Of course, every single community and country is different, but if we don't start change today, we will still be having this conversation in 100 years.

You can also educate people who relinquish animals. Mike's staff suggest a substantial fee for relinquishing an animal because the services the shelter carries out have value. For animals over seven years old, they suggest a higher one. These fees can be waived if there are good reasons to do so (because the animal will be abandoned otherwise) but it's important that people are educated in the value of what we do. Loving and caring for animal, screening potential adopters, carrying out health checks and medical procedures: these are all expensive, and the public needs to know that.

10:50: Do you have a business plan? Do you know where you want to be and how to get there? Don't our animals deserve the best that we can be? Mike is offering help from himself and his team to ICAWC delegates to help effect the change that he is talking about.

It's so inspiring to hear Mike speak. I can't recommend enough taking the chance to hear him wherever and whenever you can, if only to reaffirm your enthusiasm in what you do and why you do it.


Next presentation: Raising the Status of Companion Animals (The Canine Charter) - Clarissa Baldwin

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Population Dynamics: Problem Solving by Adding a bit of Science - Ray Butcher

It's 9:10 and we're into the first presentation of the day. Ray Butcher is going to be talking about population dynamics - strategies for population control.

9:15: When it comes to problem solving, we need to switch our focus from the individual to the population as a whole, which is sometimes odd because of our usual focus on the individual animal.

Not only that, but the nature of the population is such that there are several different groups and kinds (pets, street animals, strays etc).

One change affects the whole population, and that is not always predictable and / or desirable. We have to approach changes working on evidence to hypothesise.

9:20: Every intervention can have variable results, the stakeholders have different priorities and the attitudes of the local population will vary; a project can't necessarily be replicated around the world. However, the method of accurate data collection can (and should) be standardised, as should the interpretation of results.

9:25: A recap on the five freedoms, focussing on the freedom to express normal behaviours. What is normal for a dog?

9:30: It's easiest to think of dogs are free-roaming and owned. Free-roaming dogs could be lost, abandoned, wandering, feral or community. Owned dogs are dogs that someone states are their property or stakes a claim of property on. What are community dogs? Ones where more than one person claims ownership; ideally they provide resources and care.

What is responsible pet ownership? A duty of care to provide resources and a responsibility to reduce the impact of your dog on the rest of the community. "Is it possible for us to engender community responsibility for the sake of the whole population?"

What about other dog populations? The dog meat trade exists, and is a significant factor. If you're trying to control the whole population, you need to take into account the whole population. Dog meat has been tested routinely, and a significant number of samples are found to test positive for rabies. So the people involved in the trade have been exposed to the disease and at the very least need to be educated and vaccinated to protect themselves. The bigger picture is important.

9:35: There are five steps to population control strategies:
  • Collect data and identify major shareholders
  • Interpret data carefully and identify local priorities
  • Consider all the potential components
  • Agree overall aims, and set objectives and delegation of tasks
  • Implement, monitor and evaluate
9:40: Questions to ask about your strategy:
  • What are the local problems caused by the dogs in your area (real and perceived)?
  • What is currently being done, and who is responsible?
  • Who are the relevant stakeholders? Education is necessary to change public attitudes.
There are multiple stakeholders and they might well not get along! Yet we have to work together to achieve success. The human health ministries have different priorities from the municipalities, who again have different aims than those working in local animal shelters, etc. What is every group's idea of success? What is the agreed aim that you are going to measure to report on success?

9:50: It's important to consider the scale and practicality of what you are doing. If you choose neutering as the solution, how many do you need to neuter? Be prepared for a long process, neutering massive amounts over a long time. If you only neuter 40%, for example, how much on an impact will it have? TNR schemes need to be carefully considered to ensure welfare is paramount. Don't forget that every project has consequences across the community, so the community must be involved. When we trap, neuter and release we must return those dogs to the community and they must have the tools, resources and education to continue the care (even if the dogs are happiest continuing to live on the street).

No kill strategies also need to plan ahead to take on board welfare issues (after all, improving the health of the animals means a longer-living, and probably larger, population). Before implementing the strategy, a structure needs to exist to care for the dogs that are being kept alive and healthy. Changing the hearts and minds of the community and coming to a unified message is crucial, and the education of the next generation is vital.


Next presentation: Animal Welfare - The Business of Saving Lives - Mike Arms

ICAWC 2008: Day 2 - The Presentations

Good morning! After a welcome buffet dinner last night which gave many of us a chance to meet someone we hadn't met before (and some who are ICAWC veterans got a chance to chat with well-known and liked faces), we're all back, bright and early and ready to hear the first day of presentations.

I'm all set up and ready to go behind the sound desk - with up to 200 people in the room, the speakers will have to be heard properly -with my laptop in front of me and Chris Laurence's digital camera to my left. I'll be making the speakers nervous while they talk and hoping no-one does that to me when it's my turn tomorrow.

I'll be liveblogging highlights from many of the presentations to give everyone who couldn't attend a chance to see what to expect next time. That means I'll be posting, editing and posting again as things happen, so it's best to refresh the page every 5 minutes or so if you want to folow a particular presentation. You can do that by pressing the refresh button on your browser or F5 on your keyboard.

We'll kick off shortly with ICAWC Chairman and Dogs Trust Chief Executive Clarissa Baldwin giving the welcome address, who will be followed by ten presentations on topics ranging from population dynamics to human-animal interaction, changing behaviour patterns to education and Tellington Touch to international training opportunities.

You know, I can feel my hands getting tired already from the typing I'm going to be doing!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

ICAWC 2008: Workshops - First Aid for Dogs & Cats by Catherine Gillie

Catherine Gillie is the Assistant Field Director at Dogs Trust, and oversees the work of our centres in her area. Her discussion will centre on the aims of first aid as well as the techniques. This blog will cover the highlights but you'll really need to attend a session to get a proper overview. Please keep refreshing the page to see the latest updates. You can also find more information on Dogs Trust's website.

3:15: Catherine introduces her lovely assistant, Dogs Trust's Steve Goward, who is a training and behavioural specialist at Dogs Trust Roden. There won't be dog assistants here, it's too stressful, but delegates will test out techniques on each other.

Catherine covers the main aims of first aid which are to:
  • Preserve life
  • Prevent suffering
  • Prevent the situation deteriorating
  • Promote recovery
  • Protect personal safety
Personal safety is the first priority because injured animals will be frightened and can be dangerous. Plus, look at the situation; if the animal's been run over, electrocuted or burned, are you at risk from the same in the current context?

The first thing to do is call for help. Then, assess the situation and think about your own safety.

3:20: Moving an injured animal might open you to bites, so Catherine demonstrates a tape muzzle for emergency situations where there's no other option, or where applying a muzzle might have associations that increase the stress in the circumstances.

3:25: Cats are trickier than dogs. Wrapping a cat in a towel will often help; if the wounded area can be kept exposed and treated then that's great, but the more effective course can sometimes be to wrap the cat up safely and head straight for a vet.

3:30: Catherine moves on to talk about the conscious and unconscious nervous system and the way this can affect the nature of the immediate treatment. Of course it's also a way to check for likely aggressive responses. You're of little help to the animal if you end up hospitalised because of bites, so you must think of yourself first for both your sakes. There are ways of testing reflexes to establish if the animal is alive or dead, conscious or unconscious.

We're now looking at a diagram of the respiratory and circulatory systems. Suddenly GCSE biology lessons about oxygenated and deoxygenated blood are coming back to me! Catherine's tour of animal physiology also goes on to cover the digestive system.

3:45: Having given a short overview of the reproductive system, Catherine turns to Stephen and the two discuss the medical and behavioural ramifications of neutering. The overall consensus is that the health benefits are obvious and very important. The behaviour considerations are more open-ended and open to discussion.

Catherine moves on to demonstrate recovery position, artificial respiration and heart massage. If you have established that a dog (or cat) is unconscious, it is worth checking that the tongue has not accidentally been swallowed - pulling that out (or, if the dog is small enough, tipping the head forward and using gravity to help 'knock' a blockage out gently but firmly, supporting the head) can be the lifesaving move. If you're worried the dog might be conscious enough to bite by reflex, try shielding your fingers under the dog's gums as you ease the mouth open. The dog will feel the bite itself and quickly open its mouth.

CPR is very similar to that in humans, only closing the muzzle and blowing into the nose. With the animal preferably on the right side, the hands are clasped together and there are three breaths into the nose - from a tiny puff for a puppy to a harder blow for a Great Dane - for every 15 heart compressions as a rough guide.

4:00: Catherine also demonstrates useful vet lifts - how to lift or hold, and calm, a dog and cat for an examination. This is best seen rather than described! She advocates using some of the techniques from the T Touch at the same time to help the situation if the animal is stressed.

4:15: A quick overview of signs of internal bleeding, and it's almost at the practical stage! Bandages and other props have been set out on each table, and each delegate will get a chance to practice a technique.


Excited your interest? A hands-on basic first aid course can make all the difference in they way you care for animals - or even respond if you happen to come across a freak accident. If you have the opportunity to attend a demonstration or learn more, I highly recommend it!

ICAWC 2008: Workshop - Tellington Touch by Sarah Fisher

As workshops go, this is definitely hands on; there will be dogs here! Brought in by a nearby shelter (which is also hosting visits for delegates), they will allow workshop host, Sarah Fisher, to demonstrate how body language and postural cues can help canine carers assess and respond to a dog's behaviour.

"I love the way this work is really respectful to the animal... and helps that animal reach its full potential". With this positive start, Sarah's getting started, and I'll keep editing and updating this page to bring you the highlights.

1:20pm: In response to a question, Sarah says she has worked using these stress-reducing strategies with all sorts of animals (including meerkats, prairie dogs, snakes - even tarantulas!). Shelter work is her favourite, as it's so rewarding and makes life easier and more positive for both animals and people in a potentially stressful environment.

1:25: The dogs are ready to make their entrance! Sarah is prefacing this with a list of things to look out for. Because of the situation, the dogs have been chosen by the shelter only if they're happy to be handled by people, but Sarah has not worked with them before. Her first observation - of uneven ears - speaks to her as typical of dogs that don't like to be handled in a certain way and might have been misdiagnosed as 'dominant' when actually they're fearful and tense.

1:30: The dogs, two beautiful hounds called Dimo and Pizzikella, are brought in. D is instantly uncomfortable - there is huge muscular tension through the legs, a tucked in tail and very little movement. P is a little happier and more mobile, but still nervous.

Touch starts with the back of the hand. All the touches are very, very light, using just the fingertips or palm but not gripping - just floating across the skin. Sarah begins at the area the dog is most comfortable with, often the front end (where 60% of the weight of the dog is). From back of hand, you can move to one and a quarter turns of a circle, clockwise, with the fingertips.

1:40: The idea of the T Touch is to "bring movement back to the body even though the animal is afraid".

As Sarah's hands move to the hindquarters, D moves away. She resumes contact from the front, guiding him back to her by stroking, not pulling the lead. Slowly he shoes signs of movement. These can be fearful of calm (just like people, dogs yawn, lick lips, sniff as a calming signal or sign of stress, so it's important to read context).

A body wrap is applied, which can be a useful distraction and calming technique for the animal. D does not object; if he had, it would have been removed.

1:50: Treats are brought out. P confidently wolfs down a few; D is still to nervous to eat.

2:00: In answer to questions, Sarah recounts some success stories, such as that of a Pointer that could only be approached with stroking sticks through kennel bars, such was its kennel guarding fear. Within an hour of repeating a few strokes, followed by a break, she was calm enough to be put on the lead and lead out of her kennel.

A story about an Akita that narrowly escaped destruction after savaging its owner follows. Despite being virtually untouchable, working only "within the threshold of what the dog can cope with" (in this case touch for a few seconds near the head only) and some physiotherapy delivered amazing results, with a dog who started out with eyes fixed, and no interest in humans rapidly becoming a tail-wagging, eager friend.

2:10: Sarah demonstrates the touching techniques on the backs of some willing human volunteers before letting them try on the dogs (provided the hounds are comfortable). They agree that clockwise, gentle motions are much more pleasant than flat-handed, heavy pressure patting and stroking. A very soft tissue lift is demonstrated, cupping the skin to raise and guide down the tissues. This can also be used over joints. She explains how we must mirror relaxed body language and respect what the animal is telling us: "we're the only species that greet head on with eye contact and something held out - and that's considered polite!".

2:20: Despite having a short break out of the room followed by a drink (a very promising sign), D signals he's had enough by going to sit under a table and stare at the wall.


Reading this blog is no substitute for attending a session like this. Sarah worked on, showing the delegates the right type of touch by demonstrating on the backs of willing volunteers, and displaying props that can help with animals that can't be approached. I hope this taster makes you think of finding out more about the Tellington Touch and using these calming techniques on animals in your care. I know that my kitten can be a bit fractious and fearful, having lived on the streets, and I'll certainly be trying out the basic strokes and finding out more.

Hopefully there will shortly be some photos to follow, but in the meantime I'm gearing up to join a workshop on pet first aid. More blogging to come!

And we're off... day one begins!

It's morning in Stresa, Italy, and morning is indeed broken, or at least the clouds are, because it's very, very rainy! Still, it's all go inside, where badges are being alphabetised, welcome packs assembled, the stage paced by nervous speakers and Internet connections are being alternately blessed and cursed...

Registration is due to begin at 11, but we're expecting a few early comers who will want to be registered and ready to go by the time the first shelter visit leaves. We'll be ready for them! The two visits today will run alongside workshops in Tellington Touch, Feline Infectious Diseases, Shelter Building in a Rescue Environment and First Aid for Dogs and Cats. Not to worry if you haven't managed to register first thing, though, as someone will be manning the desk until 5pm.

I'll be floating around the workshops blogging away, so if you want to know more about the content bookmark this page and check back. As long as the WiFi doesn't fail me (and I have faith it won't!), I'll be bringing you a regular dose of news from the conference.

Well, except when I'm the one speaking. *Quakes*

Alexandra Roumbas, Dogs Trust

Friday, 24 October 2008

Reminders, packing and preparation, oh my!

Reminder emails being sent out for the 1,000EUR competition can only mean one thing: it's time to pack!

We're all due at Terminal 5 on Tuesday morning, so it's time to get my shirts and skirts in a row and make sure my presentation still feels as fresh and interesting as it did when I first started work on it. I've got supporting documents ready to upload right afterwards so that anyone who needs further information should have it at their fingertips when visiting the ICAWC website.

I'm a little nervous about the presentation, but much more so about the flight! Now it's getting closer I have remembered my dislike of take off, but also started to get quite excited about all the possibilities next week has to offer.

I've already heard from one delegate who is coming all the way from Australia; it will be great to meet her and I guess after that I really can't complain about two hours in the air!

Remember, I'll be blogging about the different presentations and activities here so that if you couldn't make it this year you'll still have a good idea what to expect in the future. Just bookmark this page and head back here on Wednesday.

Alexandra Roumbas, Dogs Trust

Monday, 6 October 2008

Three weeks to go!

I can’t believe ICAWC is now only 3 weeks away! This is my first conference and already I have a sense of how much of a buzz there is about the whole thing. There are still some last minute registrations coming in – if you haven’t yet registered I strongly recommend doing it soon! Some of the activities are already oversubscribed.

I have received emails from delegates all over the world and its great to hear that so many organizations are advertising the conference on their own websites, and are this year bringing with them like-minded peers from their part of the world. That’s what ICAWC is all about – encouraging as much sharing of information and best practice as possible so that we can all do the best for our companion animal friends.

Meanwhile I am busying getting together all the presentations from our guest speakers – they all sound fascinating and I can’t decide which I am most looking forward to hearing.

When you arrive at ICAWC please don’t forget to come to the registration desk, where you will receive a welcome pack, including the full Programme of Events. And I hope we will see you all at the free Welcome Buffet Dinner on Wednesday 29th October at 7.30pm at the Regina Palace Hotel.

Finally, I have been really enjoying reading all your competition entries. Someone has to win the 1000 EUR cash prize!! If you haven’t sent your entry yet, you need to answer the following question in no more than 45 words:

“How do you explain to a potential corporate donor that dogs/cats are worthy of their support?”

Send your answers to

Good luck, and see you in Italy!!

Helen Speake, Events Team, Dogs Trust